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For Art's Sake: Yasmin David

PUBLISHED: 08:35 24 August 2010 | UPDATED: 05:39 06 February 2013

For Art's Sake: Yasmin David

For Art's Sake: Yasmin David

This month sees a retrospective exhibition of the artist Yasmin David. Her son, Julian, writes about her paintings

Yasmin David lived at Luscombe, in the parish of Rattery, from 1962, when she arrived at the age of 23, just married. She lived here until 2009 when she died. She fed lambs by the Rayburn when she was young, and gave birth to two daughters and a son. Later she helped her husband on teaching projects abroad in Sicily and South Africa, and her son in the development of Luscombe Organic Drinks.

Her paintings are forceful expressions of landscape in a constant state of flux, of becoming

As the daughter of writer Laurie Lee and Lorna Wishart, and sister of painter Michael Wishart, Yasmin grew up with a strong artistic background and sensibility. But she never chose to exhibit, except when very young and before she came to Devon. Perhaps by means of this intense privacy she was able to create an entirely individual voice within the English landscape tradition.

The paintings are dramatic, emotional and often turbulent, conveying the drama in the landscape as she saw it, and perhaps resonating human dramas within them. Her preoccupation was with the huge polarities of light and dark, the sky and the land, and inner and outer states of being. She tried to capture the molten, ever-changing quality of nature. Her paintings are forceful expressions of landscape in a constant state of flux, of becoming.

She loved to watch the watery, ever-changing light and seasons of Devon, and to bring into it reality for herself both in words and paint. Always she painted, and nearly every day she wrote notes, such as the following from 1988:

30 Jan: Milder but still cloud. Wind dropped. Very quiet. Snowdrops insistent presence containing such depths of meaning and memory.
15 Feb: In the woods, still, so still but life throbbing powerfully in every tree, bush, sapling. Bluebell leaves striking strong and green through the dead leaves of last year. The river a quiver and a whisper rushing on for ever. Snowdrops, wild daffodils and ducks green, green jade floor beneath the water.

15 March: Sunrise over river mouth with lowering cloud, mild water very still, seagulls, rooks and cockerels on the water. (A birthday night away at Fowey.)

17 March: Still, overcast metal light, but birdsong so exultantly abandoned that dizzy cliffs open among the bushes, and mountains appear above the trees, evoking great, imaginal worlds of song.

And in another climate, at Cape Point, near the southern tip of Africa:
6 Jan: Soft, cooler wind from the South-West, rain smelling sky over the sea pale duck-egg blue washed with yellow the sea itself murmuring gently, and behind the house (deeply, out of the bushes) a wood pigeon softly bubbling and re-winding down long deep chambers of the inner ear.

7 Jan: Sea and sky almost fused in colour after the moon-mists of the night. Air still crisp, colours milky blue/purple. Suddenly seagulls calling evocations of Cornwall, Tenby and all the subtle memories and images of association, incongruous in this strandloping peninsular. The words delight, glory. (The strandlopers were the most ancient humans along that coast who, like the shore baboons, lived off the rockpools.)
Her family always knew that any exhibition she would have must be posthumous. They knew also that one day it must come. She was a hidden mystic, with more than a touch of that untaught genius which is a great soul speaking directly out of itself. It is right that people should now be able to see the work and let it speak to them or not.


Yasmin David 1939-2009: Retrospective and Memorial Exhibition
15-30 September at the Ariel Centre Gallery, KEVICC, Ashburton Road, Totnes TQ9 5JX
As well as her paintings, there will be notebooks and sketchbooks and other items on show.

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